How to make a living, thrive and survive as an actress or artist of any sort, is really an individual journey. If you are in touch with your truth, and believe that pursuing a career in acting is something you MUST do in this life time, then I say with 100% enthusiasm: “Go For It”… I don’t believe we are living a dress rehearsal; I’m pretty sure this IS the show.
I have been acting since I was a kid. I have studied and worked with so many successful and sometimes even “famous” performers over the years. The one thing they all had in common was a sense of how lucky they were!
Don’t get me wrong, just about all of them (with a rare exception) had all put in the preparation time, done the work and, of course, had the talent and strong desire to begin with. But more often than not, they would confide that they just got “lucky”. I’m not kidding. I have heard this SO many times. I don’t think it matters a lick if it’s been a, sighhhhh, “ Lifelong Dream” of yours or if you happen to wake up at age 50 and realize you want to act again. I mean, just look at Clara Peller, the diminutive octogenarian actress who made the three-word phrase “ Where’s The Beef?” a cultural phenomenon in a Wendy’s commercial. Clara had worked for 35 years as a manicurist before being discovered for her unique voice and character acting!
So what to do before that ever-evasive luck fairy arrives? (Because it will- if you are persistent and never give up). Young actors often ask “how” to get started, and I always say “Yes, exactly. H.O.W”:
Honest: Be honest. Be honest with yourself about what you want( aiming for the stars), what you are truly capable of (it doesn’t count if only your mum thinks you are talented- get feedback from people who know and will be … honest) and the reality of your chosen field.
Open: Be open. Keep an open mind to anything that comes your way, even if it’s not what you originally thought was “supposed” to happen; to be OPEN to suggestions, being teachable and to always be learning new things. That music video you did, which people told you not to do because there was no money and it wasn’t really “acting” -could show off your talents, be filmed by a top of the list director and be seen by someone who is casting a movie and wants YOU. Who knows? Be open. Say “yes” to work and go out there and do your absolute BEST an anything and everything you do.
Willing: Be willing. Be willing to go to any lengths to achieve your goals- even if it means sacrifice. Don’t want to spend more money on the better headshots? You’ll pay the price somewhere else. Don’t want to get out of bed early for a class, or drive really far to do a gig, or to walk in the freezing cold barefoot doing a scene with a smoke machine at 5am for peanuts!? Then take a walk somewhere else …
The business side of acting has changed so much recently, what with the ability for pretty much anyone to self-produce and put things on YouTube or websites. A multitude of acting jobs have been taken over by “regular folk” or non-actors who get to think they are actors on “Reality TV”. In addition, to be quite frank about it, the number of actors and actresses who have been in tons and tons movies and television shows, but who are now struggling to find work has doubled! There is no such thing as coming to Hollywood and becoming famous over-night. That’s just seriously NOT realistic.
When many famous movie actors are taking the roles on TV, in animated features, in commercials etc…. where do the tried and true actors who made their bread and butter with those gigs, go?
This is not sounding very positive is it? Hmmm…So, where’s the positive message Tanya? Lol. Where’s the silver lining, the flipside of that coin, the positive creative visualization? Anything?…
I can only share with you what has been suggested to me and what seems to work… I have this sort of mentor I guess you’d call him, who is frequently fond of reminding me to “get out of the way” in terms of wanting something specific to happen so desperately. What I can do instead he soothes, is to pray, ask for guidance and meditate- being receptive to the answers that will come. Things have happened in my life that were beyond my expectations, simply because I got out of the way.
There’s also an interesting option called “volunteer work”. I volunteer and get out of my self (out of my fear). As an actress and voice-over artist for example, I am a “BookPal” through the SAG/AFTRA organization, and I get to read stories to little kids!
What else do I do? What else can we ALL do? We can all create projects and work for ourselves- working together… We can find faith and comfort- catharsis even- by telling the stories we want to tell! We can make that short film, documentary or webisode. We can join a staged reading troupe, create a one act, a musical, anything. I mean, the choices are limitless really, aren’t they? Whatever you DO, make sure it’s not sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring or the inbox to “ding”. Been there, done that. It doesn’t work.
Branch out with your options and find or create work, related to the acting business if possible, which will be your bread and butter- your means for immediate survival. And hey, listen carefully, no matter what your job is, never-EVER feel guilty or ashamed of it. That’s just a waste of energy, a classic pitfall rooky maneuver and major victim mentality anyway.
For most of us, if we’re lucky, life throws us some major obstacles and adversity that we have to overcome. For me it has been an on-going battle with rheumatoid arthritis since I was a child, a horrific car crash which almost killed me, getting sober and of course the usual- love and loss- which fuels us all. These physical, emotional, sometimes spiritual traumas can be impetus, to stimulate, inspire and drive our achievements. Which is really truly wonderful. These are gifts from the acting gods to be used for winning in our performances AND in our lives I think!
In my extremely humble opinion, there is no such thing as a small victory- they are all great! So one day, or week or even year at a time, keep the faith, put in the work and celebrate being a lucky actor.